Latest HNTB survey reveals highway congestion drives support for tolls

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HNTB survey finds majority prefer tolls and mileage-based user fees over gas taxes to ensure quicker travel and less congestion

People want real solutions that fund the upkeep and improvement of our surface transportation system, help pay for needed expansion, and continue to increase their mobility and safety

Increasing congestion on our nation’s highways and roads is driving almost three in four (72 percent) Americans to support using tolls to pay for critical or needed transportation infrastructure projects if there are insufficient funds from other sources, according to the latest America THINKS national public opinion survey by HNTB Corporation.

The survey, Tolling 2016, also found that nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans are willing to pay a toll over a free alternative if they knew it would save them time and avoid congestion.

“Americans are frustrated by the ever-growing congestion on our nation’s roads and highways. They recognize the costs in terms of time, money, stress and environmental damage when they are stuck in traffic,” said Kevin Hoeflich, PE, HNTB’s vice chairman of toll services. “People want real solutions that fund the upkeep and improvement of our surface transportation system, help pay for needed expansion, and continue to increase their mobility and safety.”

HNTB’s continuing examination of Americans’ attitudes toward tolling demonstrates that increasing mobility and safety are consistent themes. A 2014 America THINKS survey found 79 percent of Americans would support adding tolls to non-tolled facilities if it resulted in safer, congestion-free travel, and a 2013 HNTB survey found 59 percent of those who pay tolls did so because they received faster travels times, lanes with less traffic (52 percent) and higher-quality roads (52 percent).

New ideas wanted
The most recent HNTB survey also found that more than three in four (77 percent) Americans would prefer tolls and mileage-based user fees rather than higher gas taxes to pay for infrastructure needs over the next 10 years. Of this group, 45 percent would prefer using tolls while 32 percent would support mileage-based user fees. Only 23 percent would like to use higher gas taxes for this purpose.

“Interest for innovative approaches such as mileage-based user fees is clear, but the public struggles to understand how these fees work. Mileage-based user fees are not an additional tax, but rather could be an alternative to federal and state gas taxes. They are based on how many miles an individual driver actually travels,” said Hoeflich. “We have a real opportunity to help educate the public about how mileage-based user fees work and their potential benefits.”

Why pay a toll?
The HNTB survey found 61 percent of Americans have driven on a tolled facility in the past year, and more than four in five (81 percent) cite at least one reason why they support tolls, including:

  • Improving the safety of highways (52 percent)
  • Reducing congestion or obstructions on existing highways (46 percent)
  • Adding capacity of additional lanes to improve a section of existing highway (43 percent)
  • Adding transit that supports nearby rail or bus systems (25 percent)

According to the survey, 19 percent of Americans would never support tolls on existing highways.

Other findings
The survey also found 43 percent of Americans believe it is appropriate to toll new general purpose interstate highway lanes when these additional lanes are added as priced managed lanes to help reduce congestion. Twenty-nine percent support the conversion when highways must be reconstructed and 22 percent when high-occupancy vehicle lanes are not fully utilized.

About the survey
HNTB’s America THINKS “Tolling 2016” survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,022 Americans between July 21 and July 28, 2016. It was conducted by Kelton Global, which used an e-mail invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure reliable representation of the entire U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

About HNTB
HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm serving public and private owners and contractors. With more than a century of service, HNTB understands the life cycle of infrastructure and addresses clients’ most complex technical, financial and operational challenges. Professionals nationwide deliver a full range of infrastructure-related services, including award-winning planning, design, program management and construction management. For more information, visit http://www.hntb.com.

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Andrew Hoskins
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